Litigation Isolationism

64 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2015 Last revised: 6 Jun 2015

Date Written: January 7, 2015


Over the past two decades, U.S. courts have pursued a studied avoidance of transnational litigation. The resulting litigation isolationism appears to be driven by courts’ desire to promote separation of powers, international comity, and the interests of defendants. This Article demonstrates, however, that this new kind of “avoidance” in fact frequently undermines not only these values but other significant U.S. interests as well by continuing to interfere with foreign relations and driving plaintiffs to sue in foreign courts.

This Article offers four contributions: First, it focuses the conversation about transnational litigation on those doctrines designed to avoid it, i.e., doctrines that permit or require courts to dismiss a case based on its “foreignness.” Doing so helps to identify the particular concerns justifying this kind of avoidance and to evaluate them on their own terms. Second, the Article presents evidence of emerging foreign trends that increasingly (and surprisingly) permit traditionally American, plaintiff-friendly procedures, including higher damages awards, aggregate litigation, and third-party litigation financing. Third, the Article demonstrates that, particularly in light of these foreign trends, avoidance has failed to achieve its stated goals, and in many instances has undermined them. Finally, the Article suggests ways to refine avoidance doctrines to address these unintended consequences. Its more basic and urgent task, however, is to identify the growing phenomenon of litigation isolationism, highlight its perversities, and caution against its further expansion.

Keywords: private international law, transnational forum shopping, personal jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, extraterritoriality, international comity, avoidance, civil procedure, federal courts, comparative procedure

JEL Classification: K10, K33, K41

Suggested Citation

Bookman, Pamela, Litigation Isolationism (January 7, 2015). 67 Stanford Law Review 1081 (2015), Available at SSRN:

Pamela Bookman (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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